Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of
The University of Texas at Austin
in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements
for the Degree of


May 1985


Douglass Browning

Ignacio Angelelli

Robert H. Kane

Douglas Kellner

James Bieri

by Kelley Lee Ross

Dedicated to:

Now you have your philosopher [note].


This dissertation presents a theory of the metaphysical foundation of knowledge of value. In doing so it continues and develops a type of theory that is characteristic both of the work of Immanuel Kant and of that of two particular post-Kantian traditions which started with the near contemporaries Jakob Fries and Arthur Schopenhauer. The Friesian tradition is best represented by its principal recent exponents, Leonard Nelson and Rudolf Otto. These two traditions and the direct influence of Kant may all be seen to come together, in a suggestive though non-rigorous and even non-philosophic way, in the psychological theory of Carl Gustav Jung. All these perspectives provide important clues for the solutions that will be offered for the problems of the ontology and epistemology of value.

The motivation and purpose of this dissertation follow from a conviction that the humanistic enterprise of philosophy always comes down to two things: to discover what is worthwhile in life and to discover what to do about it. In the strongest Socratic sense, therefore, what is important in philosophy is ethics. I find, however, that my concern in this direction is perennially distracted by the meta-questions of reality, of knowledge, and of justification upon which the very meaningfulness of ethics as a philosophic enterprise hangs. Since Plato, empires and civilizations have risen and fallen while we continue to await a decision or a consensus on those questions; and my primary concern herein, therefore, is less with the positive content of morals, ethics, aesthetics, or religion than with the framework of epistemology, ontology, and logic within which the former may lay claim to their own proper importance, origin, and autonomy.

Philosophy, from a practical point of view, may seem a poor thing, with little to recommend it, in the face of millennial dilemmas of value, meaning, and knowledge. Philosophy certainly commonly addresses itself to problems of value and of the meaning of life, but answering those questions to the satisfaction of more than a few partisans of some philosophic school is another matter. The epochal challenge for philosophy is to come up with something better than that, something that can both enter into the theater of historical change, as did Stoicism or Marxism, and at the same time provide a genuine alternative to a hopeless historical oscillation between an essentially sterile scientific universe of atoms and the void and crackdowns of religious reaction and repression (whether traditionally religious or quasi-religious ideology). If what is lacking in the scientific worldview is the dimension of value, and if what constitutes religious oppression is the imposition of a dogmatic system of value, then clearly what philosophy must originate, what philosophy must claim as peculiarly its own, is a positive, constructive [erratum corrected] discipline of value theory.

Whether philosophy is equal to this is not an abstract puzzle for a distracted few; for philosophy itself is more than just a tradition, a training, or any peculiar doctrine: it is what any human being does, in however inarticulate a manner, when reflection gives rise to fundamental questions about our very existence and purpose in life. Nor is such reflection often idle curiosity: I suspect that most come to it, not through the traditional awe and wonder, but out of the perplexity and pain that inevitably disillusion us with the innocent confidence in the world we so often begin life by having. And so for me these pages represent not so much something done for philosophy as for my own solitary unhappiness with the blank mystery, the cruel gods, the tragic good intentions, and the bittersweet beauty that I find in the world. Out of these feelings I trust that I will not be, at the least, complacent. Whether others will share this motivation, I cannot say. One need not look for a way when one does not feel that the way has been lost: just as in Socratic philosophy the beginning is in the self-discovery of doubt and ignorance.

The title of the dissertation calls for some explanation. The term "transcendent function" has been borrowed from Jung, who speaks of it as the relation between consciousness and the unconscious, where the latter introduces novel contents into the former [1]. Here the question is also of novel contents introduced into consciousness, whether we say it is from the unconscious, from Being, or from positive transcendence (as this will be defined). By the "origin of value" in this transcendent function, we are looking at the origin in time of two things, first of value as an objective presence in immediate knowledge, which is an occasion or manifestation of positive transcendence, and second of value as our awareness and understanding of the former. The special technical meanings of all these terms, and their theoretical contexts, will of course be set forth in the text. "Origin" also will mean first the place of origin, i.e. the ontological ground which is the source and basis of the value, and second the occasion of origin, i.e. the circumstances which effect the presence, in immediate knowledge, of value in time. Naturally, "transcendent function" also suggests the Platonic relation between Being and Becoming, or the Kantian between noumena and phenomena, both of which are important antecedents for this theory.

I would like to acknowledge my debt to Dr. G. Douglass Browning for his great patience and forbearance in supervising this dissertation. Without those qualities, together with his ultimate sympathy, the natural growth of the systematic idea would not have been possible. My thanks are also due to Dr. Robert Kane for his criticisms and suggestions when they were most needed and to Dr. James Bieri for encouraging words at a time when they were the most needed and welcome. Patience, too, I must credit to my parents, who can only have entertained the most grave doubts about the odd and unprofitable profession that their son chose. Their personal support has always made it possible for me to devote my attention to these things.

Further, and less direct, acknowledgements must be made to the Leonard Nelson Foundation and L.H. Grunebaum, whose efforts at publishing Nelson in this country first brought him to my attention. It is a great tribute to Nelson that the personal devotion to his memory of his students should have resulted in the perpetuation of his enterprise in the Foundation, the Philosophisch-Politischen Akademie of Kassel, and the journal Ratio (as a continuation of the Abhandlungen der Fries'schen Schule). It is a great disappointment to me that the novel insights of the Friesian tradition have continued to have so little impact in contemporary philosophy.

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Copyright (c) 1985, 1997 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved